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Kushner’s legal team looks to hire crisis public relations firm amid Russia probe

The Washington Post logoThe Washington Post 12/15/2017 Josh Dawsey
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Senior White House official Jared Kushner and his legal team are searching for a crisis public relations firm, according to four people familiar with the matter.

Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, has quietly called at least two firms, these people said. The inquiries have occurred in the past two weeks, and officials at the firms were asked not to discuss the conversations with others.

In a statement, Lowell confirmed he was looking for a firm that would handle media for all high-profile clients that receive attention from the press. His other clients include Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat whose months-long corruption trial ended last month when jurors deadlocked. The Justice Department has not announced whether it plans to retry him.

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“My law firm and I are considering hiring an outside consultant to handle the time-consuming incoming inquiries on the cases in which I am working that receive media attention,” Lowell said in a statement to The Washington Post. “This inquiry from you about whether I am doing this is a good example of why we need one.”

FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks with White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner as he departs after a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington. © AP Photo/Alex Brandon FILE PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks with White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner as he departs after a Hanukkah reception in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, in Washington.

Investigators for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III have asked witnesses questions about Kushner’s interactions with former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn as part of his larger investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the investigation. Kushner has been identified by people familiar with his role as the “very senior member” of the Trump transition team who directed Flynn in December to reach out to the Russian ambassador and lobby him about a United Nations resolution on Israeli settlements, according to court documents. Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York have also subpoenaed documents about his family company’s use of the EB-5 visa program at a planned Jersey City development.

Crisis PR firms are often retained to handle a negative development or an avalanche of media inquiries. Kushner has been in the headlines almost daily, and he has complained to friends about the nonstop negative attention from the news media. White House officials have speculated for months that Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, would return to New York, but he has told associates over the last month he plans to stay.

At least one firm, Mercury Public Affairs, passed up the opportunity to work with Kushner’s team, people familiar with the discussions said. Mercury’s lobbying work has also come under scrutiny by Mueller, which could have complicated its ability to represent Kushner.

Michael McKeon, a partner at Mercury, declined to comment. The firm, which has not been accused of wrongdoing by Mueller’s team, has said it is cooperating with investigators.

Kushner is largely represented in the White House by Josh Raffel, who joined the administration earlier this year to handle media inquiries for the Office of American Innovation, which Kushner leads.

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